Matt Grote, a gay comedian in New York City, decided to play the role of “Instagram Hunk” on the social media photo-sharing platform. He took to Medium to explain his experiment and share what he learned.
Grote writes: “So, as mostly a joke, and also to brag since I vaguely have abs at the moment, I decided to become an Instagram boy. I posted only shirtless pictures for a week, adding a line of inane tags to keep the experiment in the realm of ‘comedy’ and outside of ‘a cry for attention.’”
Grote says that his vacation in vanity actually worked, as he got a lot more likes than he usually does — some from friends egging him on, but others from gay men doing the same sort of thing.
What was more interesting was the source of attention. Each photograph averaged 60 likes, while my usual posts (goofy bullshit and comedy show posters) average 20. Half these were from friends, but half were from other gay men doing exactly what I was doing, perhaps with less irony. (It still counts as irony if I also liked the attention, shut up.)
Is being a gay man on the internet yet another rat race? Another open mic, but for who can do the most cardio in the best lighting?” he asks. “I have to question what it is we want. Do we want to be models? Or their close cousin, escorts? I want to say this is not the way to it, but even professional models liked my posts, and yes,” that is absolutely a brag.
But Grote’s visibility here is also a refreshing look we don’t often see, combatting the troubling body standards that we as gay men often have. Social media only reinforces these pressures, as it’s easy to follow a slew of hot men with beautiful bodies, constantly reminding us all that we come up short.
In his article, Grote opens up about his struggles with his body, struggles many other gay men share.
“Like many gay men, I have a… I want to say complicated relationship with my body,” he explains. “But it’s actually pretty straightforward: I’m hypercritical of it. Here is where I’d list minute flaws only I can see, but I’m perfect so I won’t. (I carry fat in weird pockets and my arms look like straws.) I grew up fat and stayed fat until coming out, so it has a sort of cognitive sense of imprisonment for me. Gaining weight is going back in the closet, being closed off from love and life.”
But Grote says to me that even though he may have gotten more likes online, he still came up short in real life. He says, “Getting attention from strangers does feel really great but ultimately unfulfilling. Like eating candy when you want a burrito.”
Grote concludes his essay with: “So here is what I learned from my week being an Instagram boy: it is very nice to get compliments from strangers, but it cannot be the focus of a fulfilling life. If you want to be happy, get yourself a man who makes good spinach dip. They cuddle better. (Also, learn to love yourself but honestly, spinach dip is easier and comparable.)”